Opinion: Mother of three coping with job loss during coronavirus

Opinion: Mother of three coping with job loss during coronavirus

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It has been 17 years since we first began our column sharing our poverty relief efforts in our communities. It has been over 30 years since we became a 501©3 charity. We have been through a lot of changes in our country and our communities over these years. The most recent being the COVID-19 pandemic that is causing the pains of poverty in people who have never before endured such hardship.

Thanks to the COVID-19 Help Your Neighbor $50,000 Challenge donors and all of your matching donations, we have been able to help many more people during these trying times. Thanks to all of you, we have successfully matched their $50,000 challenge and are now using these funds to provide desperately needed poverty relief during this pandemic. We hope to have these funds all distributed in the near future, and then we can share with all of you where every penny of your donations, matched by the COVID-19 Help Your Neighbor $50,000 Challenge donors, was spent in removing the pains of poverty.

Dear W.C.,

The recent COVID-19 virus has made our lives much more difficult. I am a single mother of three children, and I lost my job in early March. My ex-husband also lost his job, so he was unable to pay his child support for a few months, but he wasn’t consistent even before then. I was able to get a job working from home, but I am earning much less than before, so it has been a real struggle paying all my bills.

I am behind in my car payments, rent and utilities. Food is down to just basics, peanut butter and jelly and canned goods. I was hospitalized for pneumonia last fall after I caught the flu, so I have to be very cautious right now. If something happened to me, I don’t know what would happen to my kids, as my ex-husband is not a good father to them.

I have never asked for help before in my life, but this recent crisis is like nothing I’ve been through before. I am praying you can help us, as my landlord has been understanding but is now pressuring me to catch up on my rent, as he has his own mortgage and bills to pay. I don’t want my children to go hungry or become homeless.

Dear Readers,

This is just one of the more than 100 people helped since we began the COVID-19 Help Your Neighbor $50,000 Challenge on May 7. We are working very hard to keep up with the many requests coming to us daily. We also have been receiving many referrals from good people throughout our communities. All we seem to hear about on the news is all the bad things happening in our world right now, but there are also good things happening right here in our communities.

One of those good things is the people who are fed, sheltered, provided utilities, clothing, toiletries, transportation, household necessities, wheelchairs and other daily necessities, thanks to all of your donations. These good things could not have happened without your help.

Providing assistance to the woman who wrote the above letter and her three children was another good thing this past week. The good news is, we prevented this family from future eviction, utility disconnection and hunger. We removed the stress from this mother, as she worried endlessly about being able to provide for her family until she is fully employed once more. We provided ample food to allow them to eat more than just peanut butter and jelly and noodles with butter. All of us together were the good news this family needed to hear to survive during this pandemic.

I called the mother to discuss her situation further. The first time I called, the mother was working online from her home, so we set up a time to talk later in the day. When I called later, we were able to talk and she had all her documents together that I had asked about when I called previously. I would not have to hang on as she searched for each bill or statement, as often is the case, or I call back once they have their paperwork organized.

This woman was ready to go through her budget, and very organized for our phone consultation.

After we introduced ourselves, the woman told me about her children. They were ages from eight years old to 16. We talked about the difficulties of raising children and keeping them safe during such uncertain times. She proudly told me how her oldest daughter was very responsible and a very good student. She helped out with her siblings while the mother worked online.

I asked if there was any other family she had contact with, but she said there was not. Her mother was in assisted living with dementia, so she had not been able to visit for several months now. She told me how they had been visiting outside her window once a week, but felt her mother no longer remembered her, since she had not been able to visit in person. This was another heartbreaking consequence the virus has had on our senior citizens, those that are at high risk, the inability to interact with family members or friends.

We went on to going over her budget line by line. Her budget when she had been working was very tight, but she had managed to pay every bill each month with careful spending. Now, she was unable to keep up. Her stimulus funds had gotten them through the first few months, but now her income from her job could not cover all those same expenses.

In addition to her overdue rent, they were also behind in their utilities and car payment. She shared her food budget for the past month, and I was surprised a family of her size could get by on so little. That meant the mother had been skipping meals or eating foods lacking in any nutrition, which she confirmed when I asked if she had been doing this. We could help supplement their food budget with some grocery gift cards. This would allow them to purchase some fruits, vegetables and other nutritious foods.

I asked about her overdue rent, and learned she was one month behind. Her rent was not unreasonable, but with her present income, it was too high. We talked about her moving in the future, but it was not possible right now due to her lease and her fear of exposure to the virus during a move. It was something she could address in the future, if she did not return to a job that provided enough income.

Her utilities were farther behind due to her inability to keep up with her higher late winter bills. She had made payments, but not enough to pay off the full gas and electric bills. Her rent did not include these expenses. The mother said she had not used her air-conditioning yet except for the few hot days we have had. She said she had done this only because she has asthma, and with her breathing issues, she was having a hard time in the heat. She did not want to run up her electric bill by using it any more than minimally necessary. We would pay her overdue utilities and some extra to allow this mother and children to have air-conditioning over the upcoming hot summer months, since the mother did struggle with her breathing in the heat. She sent me a picture of her utility bills so I could review them with her. I did not note any extraordinary usage, and took note of her payments made towards the accounts over the past few months.

I asked about her ex-husband and her comment about his not being a good father. She told me several incidents of neglect that had me concerned for their safety in his care as well. His lack of concern and lack of effort to pay any expenses for his children was something the mother has struggled with since before her divorce six years prior. It was one of the reasons she had sought a divorce in the first place, as he had never put their well-being first in his life. She had not relied on income from his child support payments for years, as he always had excuses why he could not pay. She knew he was working on the side for cash, as she stated, “He needs his drinking money.” I put a line through child support on her budget as a reliable source of income.

When we were finished reviewing her budget and talking about the other factors in her life that have affected them this year, we talked about their future. The mother was very distraught over the present situation in our country. She shared her fears with me over her health and her children’s safety. I listened as she cried as she shared with me she had no one else to talk to.

I then told her what assistance we would be able to provide for them, thanks to all of you. She did not speak, but I could hear her crying as I told her about our donors and how they would want to help her and the children. She finally was able to speak enough to say: “Thank you. This will change our life.”

I hear this from people all the time, but what exactly does “change my life” mean? For this mother and children, it means she will no longer have to worry about when they will be evicted and become homeless. She will not have to worry when she flips a light switch that it will no longer work. She will not have to worry about her car being repossessed as she sleeps. She will not have to feel ashamed over the lack of food for her children, or skip meals in order to have enough for everyone.

That is how we changed this family’s life, thanks to all of you. Thank you and God Bless you for allowing us to provide this assistance.

Thank you for your generosity that helped us match the COVID-19 Help Your Neighbor $50,000 Challenge. Thanks to all of you, we have been able to provide much needed poverty relief over the past six weeks. As we complete the distribution of these funds, you can be assured that 100% of your donation will be used to provide poverty relief.

Thank you and God bless you for your support during this especially troubling time. We will continue to provide our caring assistance, thanks to your support. Thank you and God bless you.

Health and happiness, love and God bless everyone, Sal

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